Saturday, October 29, 2011

Project Social: Rise (Nothing to do with Zombies)

I admit it, blogging has taken a backseat to paid work since I returned from maternity leave but I still meet  regularly with my Project Social buddy Dave to talk about posts we would write if we (I) had more time. 

Having said that, this week we not only decided to write something but to do something completely new and cutting edge: A book review! Don't miss Dave's review over at HR Official or Lyn's at the HR Bacon Hut

And if anyone else would like to join the book review party train drop us a line and we'll link to you.  We're very social.

My book is Rise by Patty Azzarello, which is the best book of its kind I have read so far.  What kind of book is it, you ask?  It's book about setting and meeting professional goals and what you need to know to get ahead.

I don't actually read many books like this.  I mean, I would but then I'd have less time to read science fiction.  Plus it feels so just out of grad school.  But Patty's newsletter, which I subscribe to, is so well-written and useful that I decided to read her book as well. 

Why is the book so good?  It has a lot to do with Patty herself, such as her conversational tone, crisp prose and vast corporate experience.  But it also has to do with the numerous practical tips and examples she provides throughout the book for doing better work, getting noticed and getting ahead.

They say that those who can't, teach but occasionally, those who can, teach and then you want to pay attention.  This is one of those times.  Patty has actually done all the stuff she recommends and it worked and in Rise she shares her secrets with wisdom and humor.

Seriously.  This is the book I'd like to have written if I'd been promoted to GM of a big multinational company at the age of 33 and gone on to become a CEO.  And I don't just say that about every book.

Mind you, I don't aspire to the C-level.  I admit that there are a few mothers of three out there who have made it to the corner office but they're so rare they get invited to speak at TED about their amazing nannies success secrets.  So you might say I'm not exactly the target audience for a book of this kind.

But you'd be wrong because Rise isn't just for would be executives.  It's a practical guide for anyone who wants to raise their game and get their work noticed instead of toiling in obscurity.  We can all use that, right?

Imagine you could have lunch with a wise, seasoned executive of your choice in an expansive mood.  Rise is like a pocket mentor.

Read this book.  You will like Patty and wish you knew her personally.  You will instantly start thinking more strategically about how you work and feel more in charge of your life. 

As an added bonus, you will finally understand why new executives need to re-organize everything. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not Just Good to Know

Dave Ryan and I were talking about possible next Project Social topics and I ambitiously suggested, ‘HR’s role in defining a high-performing organization.’

Dave’s response: ‘Hmmmmmn… yeah, that’s one topic.’

(We’ll just call that one Plan B.)

So we pared it down to one aspect of high performing organizations, something that all HPOs have: good workforce intelligence, not to be confused with an intelligent workforce.

It sometimes amazes me how little workforce information you can get out of most HR systems.  No one expects an HR system to provide the answer to life, the universe and everything, but an accurate global headcount report seems like something you could reasonably expect to get.

Imagine your CEO calls your right now and asks for input to decide between two potential locations for a new service center.  You’d probably want to compare workforce information in each location, including labor costs, hiring sources, time to fill job requisitions, quality of new hires, etc.  Can you?

What about other information that might be useful to running a business, such as:

•    What are the most critical jobs in our organization?
•    What are the most critical skills by job in our organization?
•    Where do we have skills gaps or pending skills gaps?
•    Before we bring in a consultant, is there an internal person who can do this?
•    Before we lay someone off, do they have skills we need elsewhere?
•    Is it more cost effective to hire, contract or train someone for this role?
•    How does the work quality of contingent v. employees compare?
•    Do part-time employees really produce less than full-time employees?
•    In which locations are we finding it hard to find people with the skills we need?
•    Who’s working on what and what does it cost?
•    Which managers have unusually high turnover?
•    Where do we have flight risks?

I could go on - there’s all kinds of useful information hidden away coyly in your HR systems today, as well as all kinds of useful information should be there but isn’t.  And Dave and Lyn have their own take on this over at HR Official and The HR Bacon Hut, respectively.  But you get the idea.

Here's the worrying thing:  HR leaders are starting to be replaced by marketing executives because marketers know how to show the impact of strategy execution on business results.

In marketing, business results drive whether you succeed or fail.  Period.  Which is why the first thing a marketing person in an HR role would do is get that information, right after hanging the ‘Marketing: HR: Two Drink Minimum’ sign outside their door.

HR hasn't been held accountable for business performance compared to areas of the organization but that's starting to change as companies realize it's all about people.  Everything else is just... stuff.  Which means that current, accurate workforce information is pretty important for HR leaders to have.

As an added bonus, good workforce data will help you look attractive, confident and well-dressed like that woman in the picture... no, it's not me, although the resemblance is uncanny.

It's more than just good to know.
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